The Wargamer's Guide to... The Trojan War

By Bill Gray 25 Sep 2019 3

As noted by our sister site, Strategy Gamer, the bastion of Hollywood History announced last Thursday a new product forthcoming. Yes, Total War aficionados can look forward to sword and sandal fun, this time with dueling heroes under the gates of Troy. A first look suggests this new game, Total War Saga: Troy, draws from both the previously released Britannia in that it is a stand-alone mini campaign, and Three Kingdoms because of the fantasy elements involved. Typically, the visuals are stunning with a combat environment more colorful and sumptuous than the 2004 film Troy (seriously, Achilles has more gold in his armor than Fort Knox), which at least discards the Thermopylae style Greeks of 1956’s Helen of Troy.

Otherwise, any relation to history is often coincidental.

Total War Saga Troy

Yet, there is reality behind Homer’s mythological version of events, with the actual siege occurring around 1184 BC, pitting Mycenaean Greeks against what most scholars believe to be the Anatolian city state Wilusa. Its primary city was Troy, an important mercantile center of between 5000 and 10,000 souls. So, if you are a more serious gamer (as in wargamer vs strategy gamer) wanting to engage in an historically realistic version of the Iliad, or just Bronze Age battle in general, are there options? Yes, there are, with miniatures having damn near everything a person could want for recreating skewering each other from chariots. Computer and cardboard, however, not so much.

Regardless, all these offerings look at the Trojan War as simply another historical campaign from the era. Thus, the forces involved aren’t going to necessarily look Homeric, various heroes are simply field commanders, and Zeus or his brood never make an appearance. Its Mycenaean warfare under the walls of a respectably sized trading post, sweet and simple.

Chariot of Fire Merge

Cardboard and Computer Fare

I dropped both these genres under the same category because there simply isn’t all that much out there, particularly with products you can easily get hold of. The business side of both platforms is a bit more full-time than minis, with many people using their positions to put food on the table. This means creating products that sell, and Bronze Age warfare is very esoteric by any standard. No matter how fascinating, the product has to be wanted.

When I looked to see what I could find in the cardboard counter and hex domain, three prominent things popped up. The first was SPI’s Chariot, published in 1975 and part of the firm’s PRESTAG series of pre-gunpowder tactical games. The series shared a core set of simple rules, with each game having exclusive rules for the era covered. In the case of Chariot, this meant the addition of chariots and its worthwhile knowing that of the 13 scenarios included, Troy was not among them. Nevertheless, with the rules and counters provided, an enterprising player could recreate the siege.

I did find current examples, two from GMT Games. The first is more of a civilization building game, designed by friend and colleague Mark McLaughlin and Chris Vorder Breugge, called Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea. This is an area-based game where warfare is more of a choice, but one of the states available for play is Troy. It is shipping now, sells for $85 US and for those interested the rules are published online, while an interesting “Meet the Trojans” article by Mark is also worth a read. In a bit of humor, the Trojans have one ally, the Amazons.

GMT Games Ancient Civilizations of the Inner Sea2

The other game is the GBOH entry called Chariots of Fire designed by (who else?) Richard Berg and on sale right now for $40 US. This covers warfare in the Bronze Age at the hyper detailed tactical level, but those who play this series should have no problem picking up on any unique modifications thereof. The game includes three back printed maps, 840 counters and nine scenarios. The biggies to include Megiddo and Kadesh are among them, but so is an historical version of Troy. About the only thing from Homer allowed are hero counters for a bit of one on one dueling, but the map is fully accurate for what we know of the place. Given the scale of the series at 100 yards per hex, the size of Troy comes out pretty small which despite the claims of Robert Wise and Wolfgang Peterson, is likely spot on.

Finally, there are two recent, but hard to find, games on the battle of Kadesh. One is Day of the Chariot – Kadesh included in Against the Odds Magazine selling for $33.95, and the other is A Clash of Chariots – the Battle of Kadesh by High Flying Dice games and selling for $11.95 (add $6.00 for mounted counters). Obviously, there may be more games out there.

In the video game world, the pickings are really slim, no doubt because business issues are even more pronounced than with boardgames. I inserted the words “bronze, Troy and chariot” into various game related search engines and found two products, both by Matrix-Slitherine. These were 2004’s Gates of Troy, which was a follow-on to the game Spartan, and Chariots of War, which was a sequel to the game Legion. The best way to describe them is first-generation, Total War-lite for both graphics and gameplay. Further, Gates of Troy is really more about Classical Greece with Hoplites and such, only having the siege of Troy as its first scenario. Chariots of War actually doesn’t look half bad, so much so that I just plunked over my shekels to buy it. It does seem to cover the subject well, but the closest to Troy is a faction known as Milwandians, whose language was related to what the we believe the Trojans spoke.

Gates of Troy 02

OK, what about the real heavy weight in Ancients computer gaming, Field of Glory II? Well, the game doesn’t cover the subject yet, with 'yet' being the operative term. Note that FOG2 DLC are almost always based on the companion Army List books to the miniature rules of the same name and by the same author. One is called Swifter than Eagles and it covers the Bronze Age. Bottom line, stay tuned because...

Pewter Pushing

Swifter than EaglesSwifter than Eagles is the perfect segue to transition to the miniature wargaming tabletop where the Age of Bronze, and Troy by extension, is very well covered. This is not so much due to the era’s popularity than it is to the way the hobby works as a business and the way Ancients are played. In the former case, the hobby is still principally a cottage industry, with most firms’ part time, producing figures and rules on demand.

Few people count their hobby business as their primary vocation, allowing them to delve into the esoteric if their passion so demands. In the latter case, Ancients wargaming tends to be tournament based, using a core set of rules supported by Army Lists allowing players to form historical armies based on a point system. In general, there are no rule sets out there specifically made for chariot warfare, the Bronze Age or the siege of Troy. There are, however, rules on ancient warfare with supplements and Army Lists that depict the various armies of the time.

Thus, we have Swifter than Eagles by Richard Bodley Scott. This was the ninth FOG companion army list tome, is still available and it contains the 29 Army Lists, some of which are:

  • New Kingdom Egyptian
  • Later Minoan or Early Mycenaean
  • Hittite Empire
  • Middle or Early Neo-Assyrian
  • Later Mycenaean or Trojan (well, hello there)
  • Sea Peoples
  • Philistines
  • Phoenicians
  • Neo-Hittite or Aramaean
  • Later Hebrew, and
  • Mannaean

Likewise, the very popular tourney rule sets DBM (De Bellis Multitudinis) and l’ Art de la Guerre by Herve Caille include Bronze Age armies, with the latter’s number 30 being Mycenaean to include Troy. Similarly, now defunct Warhammer Ancient Battles from 1998 also had a period supplement called Chariot Wars. The Warhammer product took a slightly different tact than most other Army List type pubs, however. It also included a wealth of historical information to include campaign studies, historical organization, specific tactics, and painting information.

Today, full time heavyweight Warlord Games has followed suit and expanded the concept with their Hail Caesar! rules set. The company’s 160-page Age of Bronze expansion not only includes all the above, but also 32 generic or historical battles, to include chariot duels in front of Troy. Its also on sale right now for $29 US and includes an Egyptian Ramesses II 28 mm figure. Alas, there are simply too many more to list, but nearly all are point based for tournaments and include the Bronze Age in their Army Lists.

Late Achaean Spearmen

Figures are no problem as well, and this is where the cottage nature of the industry shines. Certainly behemoths like Warlord markets  their own figures (produced by Cutting Edge Inc), as does Wargames Foundry and Magister Militum with their Chariot Miniatures line. Likewise, part time concern Old Glory 15s/19th Century Miniatures has 72 different models in their Age of Chariot product line, and, yes, the Mycenaean Greeks are present. Essex Miniatures in 15 mm is yet another source, and like the rules themselves, there are far too many firms to list here. Just remember, with some companies in the UK and some here in the Colonies, prices can fluctuate wildly.

And finally, we come to research material and all one needs to say is Osprey Publishing. To be sure, Nigel Stillman and Nigel Tallis’ Armies of the Ancient Near East 3000 BC to 539 BC, Wargames Research Group, 1984 is still excellent, but only if you can find it. Otherwise I count some 13 different Men-at-Arms or related books on the Bronze Age to include one on Troy itself. Other relevant works include Sea Peoples of the Bronze Age Mediterranean, plus Ancient Armies of the Middle East, The Mycenaeans, and Bronze Age Greek Warrior.

Thus, is it written, thus shall it be done, particularly if you like toy soldiers.

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