Thapsos & Alexandria Review by David Lent
Thapsos & Alexandira are two wargames included with issue #1 of GameFix magazine. Both of these games using the “Ancients” wargame system from Bill Banks. Thapsos is the famous battle between Julius Caesar and Pompey in what is now known as Tunisia. Alexandria is Julius Caesar’s famous siege of this aforementioned city.
The first game Thapsos only has four pages of rules. It is a very simple infantry combat game where both sides are trying to get victory points by capturing the enemy camp, causing the enemy to panic or having twice as many strength points as the enemy at the end of the game.
Sequence of Play:
1) Remove leaders
2) Check morale
3) Movement phase
4) Replace leaders
5) Opponent’s missile fire phase
6) Combat phase
7) Rally phase
As you can see from the sequence of play, you can move leaders at will during the replace leaders phase. Leaders double the attacking or defending strength of the unit they are stacked with.
When an army loses all leaders or 20 strength points the army panics. It’s units immediately begin moving away from the enemy forces until the individual units are rallied or move off the map.
Thapsos is a very simple scenario where both sides have similar forces except for the fact that the Caesarian’s have some bowmen and Pompey has some elephants. The Caesarians seem to have the edge in this battle, because they have more leaders and the bowmen they have instead of elephants are more reliable. In the optional rules, Caesar can spend command points to roll and try to panic (take control of an elephant for the turn) or cause it to balk (fail to move or attack).
This scenario plays really fast, but is fun. Experienced wargamers will probably find it to be too simple. However, new wargamers will definitely appreciate the easy to learn ruleset. I definitely recommend this game for beginners.
Alexandria is completely different from the Thapsos scenario and doesn’t use the same combat results table. This scenario involves marine units fighting on land and sea along with Trireme combat.
Sequence of Play:
1) Ship Movement and Ramming
2) Marine Movement
3) Marine Attacks
4) Ballista Attacks
The victory conditions for this scenario are more complex: Caesar gets points for each Roman ship still afloat at the end of the game, points for each Egyptian ship sunk or captured and points for controlling the lighthouse, palace, the causeway and the library.
In this scenario, marine units can fortify. Fortified units may not be attacked unless the enemy has a siege tower. Herein lies the problem, each side only has one siege tower so most of the game, you cannot attack most of the objectives as your enemy will use common sense and fortify those positions.
The trireme combat in this scenario is interesting as there can be rams, boardings or troop landings. My only complaint about the trireme usage is that the map is small and there is very little room for triremes to maneuver.
This scenario has more rules than Thapsos, but it’s crippled by the fact that neither side has enough siege engines to attack when they want. This is a shame, because otherwise it would have been a really decent scenario. In addition, rolling well is way too important in this game. It feels like good dice rolling is more important than sound tactics or strategy.
Overall, I feel these two games are ok for new wargamers, but not substantial enough for experienced wargamers. This is not a bad thing at all though, because there is an extreme shortage of wargames for beginners.
Buy a copy of this game with this paid link: https://amzn.to/2A1tqKl
View the components in the unboxing video below: