Another testing day for Song of Spear and Shield. This time was my birthday, while Diego birthday was the day before, and we were in Canino, a village in the north of Lazio, near the ancient Vulci, an Etruscan city. In Canino lives our friend Narciso, who offered his wargame table to this interesting way to pass a birthday.

A game of 2 vs 2 was set, with Andrea who tried to find what was more right as rule for the situations that we created during the fight. Four cards were drowned drawn to determinate which of the four players could move and act. We had a robust contingent of 20 pikes and heavy Macedonian cavalry against more numerous rows of hoplites. Some skirmishers with throwing weapons were available for every side. Me and Paolo were commanding the Macedonian front.

We divided the army. I held the right front with only a cavalry unit and two units of skirmishers. The enemy had more troops so we had to refuse a side and put our efforts focusing on only a point, the weaker one, we supposed. Hoplites are slower than our cavalry so we wanted to utilise this weakness to destroy ‘em one by one. But every plan is useless if you play against statistic laws. At the start we took only a full series of punches on our faces. We attacked and we died. I was static, with a large amount of 1 when I had to do as a valid activation throw only 2 or more on a 6 faces die. All but 1 and I had 1, all but 1 or 2 and I had 2. I fell in demoralisation state even if my troops were not in this mode. I couldn’t act and when I moved only bad results were the outgrowth.

In the progress of the situation, Paolo launched the phalanx at full force, 20 pikes on four rows, against the enemy. We obtained something, but they were too many. We had the phalanx closed on three sides, so now they was not a phalanx but a porcupine! The end was clear. So we lost.

We had fun, we were playing among friends, we tested the game for 4 players, we ate a lot, we visited Narciso’s house, we took a look to the next location for our DBA tournament, but I believe that my birthday to me isn’t the best moment for a game: last year I went to Spilamberto for the Anticamente tournament and I made my worse results; this year I lost with infamy. Another lesson: pikes are bad, especially if you are used to pick up 28mm soldiers without think to 7cm pointed pikes that are strongly towards your hand. I pay blood for it! I’m thinking to not raise an army of pikes for this reason…

Well, what could I say about the rules? I like SSS, it is a ruleset that I believe a lot. I’m playtesting it as much times as possible. I’m even enlisting a large number of troops for an Italian IV century B.C. scenario of mine. There are some little things that still doesn’t work fine. The main problem is that simple is best, so we have to define simple rules that have to work for complex things. You cannot spent your time consulting complex tables or trying to force geometric opportunities to play this game. But this simplification process is a difficult thing to do, and you must produce a beautiful and interesting play. A lot is in his definitive form, but you have to test more some mechanics and types of troops. The historical range involved in the game is so wide that you have to think to a lot of armours and weapons, and to simple rules to express these difference.

Next test is scheduled for the 16th of this month. Obviously no release date yet.